The forecast looked a little bit wet for yesterday's day tour for Dipten and Sudip, visiting from Mumbai. It turned out to be one of those (increasingly rare?) days of sharp downpours, interspersed with beautiful sunshine, but we certainly made the most of it!
Our first stop, on the way from London to Sussex, was at Thursley Common. We didn't plan on staking it out for very long, but thought it was worth a shot at trying to see 'Colin' the famous Cuckoo. He didn't turn up in the 30 minutes we watched his favourite spot, but we did enjoy lovely views of Dartford Warblers, Willow Warblers, Stonechats and Redstarts. Woodlarks perched up nicely too, while Tree Pipits and a Cuckoo (Colin?) sang. A Mistle Thrush belted his song out proudly from the top of a pine and two Roe Deer gave us a fleeting but precious encounter.
We were caught out by the rain as we walked back to the car but dried ourselves up and warmed up with a coffee in the visitor centre at Warnham Local Nature Reserve, before heading out to the trail and hides. One of the site's Common Terns was busy mobbing an intruder on the nesting raft, while a Little Ringed Plover took off the muddy edge. A Little Egret and no fewer than six Grey Herons were peering into the shallows for fish or frogs — and there were plenty of Marsh Frogs arguing among themselves!
At the next hide, two beautiful Great Crested Grebe chicks were riding on their parents' backs and a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly patrolled over the reeds. Nearby, a Reed Warbler popped out into the open from its palace of stems.
Even though it's at its best in the winter, the feeding stations did not disappoint, offering intimate views of a Nuthatch, a Song Thrush and a stunning pair of Bullfinches, as well as a couple of families of Great Tits.
Dipten was eager to see a Mandarin Duck so we squeezed in a visit to Swanbourne Lake. Sometimes, they require a walk all around the lake to find them lurking under the vegetation, but other times you can almost pick them up as they take food from visiting people with the other ducks. Today, it was the latter and we had three drakes a female nibbling around our toes!
The lake also added Firecrest, three Pochards, a Gadwall and two Egyptian Geese to the day's list, among others... A charming family of Mute Swans attracted a lot of attention.
A very quick pitstop at Burpham was productive, with distant views of two Grey Partridges and a Lapwing, plus a flurry of raptor sightings, including a male Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel, and several Red Kites and Buzzards.
It was very peaceful in the late afternoon, when we had a relaxing birdwatch from the benches at Pagham Harbour. The Sandwich Terns, Little Terns and Mediterranean Gulls were constantly commuting to the sea and back, while a nice selection of waders included Whimbrel, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit.
Fitting in one last lifer for Dipten and Sudip, we stopped by on the downs above Sompting, where Corn Buntings were showing at point-blank range and we finally got some photographable Skylarks — the only catch was that Dipten had taken so many photos, his third battery ran out of power!
That seemed like a good moment to get Dipten and Sudip back to London to get some well-earned rest before enjoying the rest of their holiday. It was an absolute pleasure guiding these two gentlemen, and we look forward to the next time, for which plans are already forming!